1. Jimenez, Rosalinda R.

Article Content

The pain of being separated from family during a serious illness is excruciating for both patient and family. The following lived experience is that of my mom-a geriatric woman of color on a ventilator-day 30-during her COVID-19 hospitalization.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Hear me, Father. Can you hear me? Can you see me? I lay here in this bed, separated from my family, separated from my comforts ... my hands tied, my air is not my own. Tubes, tubes, and more tubes: I can feel them lodged all over my body, painfully stabbing my wrists, my neck, my bladder, my arms, my mouth. In and out of weariness, sickness, and suffering, I feel my anxiety swell and I fight for my own breath. Pining to hear you, see you, Father, I beg to hear the voices of those I love tell me, "I am here. It will be alright."


But I hear nothing, nothing except the blips of machines. Nothing but alarms, the sound of the air coming on above me, nothing but distant steps, chatter outside my space, suctioning sounds coming from my mouth, nothing but medical talk I cannot understand. How am I? Where am I? What is happening to me? Someone tell me what is going on.


My body aches. I am hot and cold. I am sleepy and fight to stay alert. I cannot tell if it is night or day. The blinds are kept closed. Where am I in this space? Is it sunny or raining outside? Where is my family? They would be here with me. They would always be here like before.


Space suits surround me. Like a leper, they treat me, careful when they touch me, move me, turn me.


Careful! You're gonna pull it out! Be careful when you turn me! Oh! I can't catch my breath. I can't breathe! Cough, cough, cough, cough, cough. I'm going to vomit! Oh, I can't vomit. This tube! I can't eat with this thing in my mouth. This tube in my mouth! When is it going to come out? I can't say anything. I want to talk to you. It's so dark here. I'm all alone!


"Don't talk, ma'am. Don't try to talk. You have a breathing tube in your mouth."


I know! I know! I can't say anything to you. Even this has been taken from me. Look in my eyes! Can't you see I'm scared? Am I going to die?


"She's not improving. We'll talk to the family about her progress."


What? Tell me, first! I want my family. Let me have my family here. Please!


"Ma'am don't try to take your restraints off. You might pull out your tubes. You need them, okay Try to relax."


Relax? Ok, ok, ok. I'll try to relax. I see you're trying to help me. Really-I can see. I can see by your eyes you do care. You do care if I live or die. Is that where you are, Father? Let me find you in their eyes. They are all I have right now. They will have to do. I have to trust them. I have to see you in their eyes; that's the only way I can make it through this dark night. Father, are you there? Can you hear me? I'm scared.


"Give her something to calm her. Keep her calm until we can speak to the family."


Oh, no! More medicine to make me sleepy. I don't want to sleep anymore. Father, are you there?


"Be still, child. I am here."


Ok, ok. I won't fight it, Father. I won't fight it. My soul is in your hands. Let me rest there, in peace, in love, in mercy.


Author's note: My mother survived this traumatic hospitalization. I chose to express her experience in this phenomenological manner so we, as practicing nurses, can offer a "competent, appropriate, adapted response to each particular situation" (Errasti-Ibarrondo et al., 2019, p. 7). These authors demonstrated that a phenomenological approach can increase nurses' sensitivity and promote reflective practice, enhancing and humanizing our nursing care.


Errasti-Ibarrondo B., Jordan J. A., Diez-Del-Corral M. P., Arantzamendi M. (2019). van Manen's phenomenology of practice: How can it contribute to nursing? Nursing Inquiry, 26(1), e12259.[Context Link]